Every day, Pastor Leandro Holguin* walks through the streets of towns and villages in Colombia, handing out food packages, masks, antibacterial gel and Bibles to believers and non-believers alike. Pastor Leandro has been a facilitator for Open Doors’ programs in Colombia for the last 10 years.
He recently shared about the situation in the areas he serves (we must keep his location secret for his and others’ safety): “We have been able to bring food to many people. Those who can’t work are very depressed and face serious financial difficulties. We pray for and with them. We offer them pastoral guidance and share the Word of God with each one of them.”
During the pandemic, many people have come to faith in Jesus, he said: “It brings me so much joy.”
Because of the dire need, Colombia’s government agreed to allow church leaders to move freely during the quarantine to bring aid to people in need, especially those in remote areas of the country. But with each visit, Pastor Leandro and other church leaders put their lives in danger. In places such as Tumaco on the Pacific Coast, and the Amazon and Catatumbo regions by the border with Venezuela, these community leaders are at risk not only of infection but also being targeted by illegal armed groups that control these areas.
However, the need for biblical material and emotional support is so great in these areas that pastors and other church volunteers have decided to venture out every day, often on deserted and dangerous rural roads to get to the most remote and vulnerable communities.
“We have taken advantage of the government’s decree that allows us to move during the quarantine,” he said.
People in these remote communities controlled by rebel groups are living in dire need and in fear. They are afraid of falling ill with COVID-19 and of being killed by these groups if they contract the virus.
Pastor Amanda Santander* has been preaching in the Catatumbo region, in the northeast of the country, for more than 20 years. For 10 of those years, she has been involved with Open Doors’ programs in Colombia. The pandemic brings a new set of challenges, she says.
“People are not only fearful of the control imposed by these illegal groups, but they also fear being infected with coronavirus and then being killed by rebels,” she told Open Doors.
Open Doors has developed a program called “Agape in Your Home” program to ease the situation of many Colombian believers during the pandemic. The program provides food and pastoral support to 300 families living in remote parts of the country, where Christians suffer incessantly from religious persecution and harassment.